What is the best sign-up strategy now for someone with NO American Express cards?
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This is Part 2 of our discussion on changes to the personal American Express card sign-up bonuses. The main article is here.
This article was updated on 16th April to reflect changes in some sign-up bonus levels.
Despite these massive changes, the good news is that it is still possible for a couple, starting from scratch with American Express, to earn 130,000 Avios fairly quickly between them.
For most Head for Points readers who are NOT starting from scratch with American Express, you are where you are. Your activity with American Express over the past 24 months will determine what you can do going forward. There is nothing you can do to change it.
Even if you cancel all of your existing American Express cards today, you will need to wait 24 months before you can start on the strategies below.
The only exception is if you qualify for an American Express Gold Business or American Express Platinum Business card. You would be able to apply for those after a gap of just six months from when you cancelled your previous American Express Membership Rewards-earning card.
If you run a small business, there is still flexibility to earn regular sign-up bonuses by focusing on Gold Business and Platinum Business.
If I have not had a personal American Express card before, what should I do?
If you have not held a personal American Express card in the previous two years, you now need to use some strategic thinking.
(Note that MBNA and Lloyds Bank-issued American Express cards do not count in terms of ‘have you had an Amex?’. We are only discussing cards issued directly by American Express.)
As far as I can work it out, here are three strategies which will allow you to earn more than one bonus on a personal American Express within a 24 month period.
First card: anything except a British Airways or British Airways Premium Plus – I recommend Preferred Rewards Gold (10,000 Membership Rewards points) but you could also get The Platinum Card (30,000 Membership Rewards points), Starwood Preferred Guest (30,000 Marriott Bonvoy points), Nectar (20,000 Nectar points), American Express Rewards (up to 10,000 Membership Rewards points), Platinum Cashback or Platinum Cashback Everyday
Second card: the British Airways Premium Plus card (25,000 Avios) – because the only restriction on getting this is if you have held either of the two British Airways American Express cards in the previous 24 months
The reason for the order here is that if you got British Airways Premium Plus first then you would block yourself from all of the cards in the first list, except for The Platinum Card.
First card: anything except a card earning Membership Rewards points – you are allowed a British Airways American Express, British Airways American Express Premium Plus, Starwood Preferred Guest, Nectar, Platinum Cashback or Platinum Cashback Everyday
Second card: The Platinum Card (30,000 Membership Rewards points) – because the only restriction on getting this is if you have held another Membership Rewards-earning card (Preferred Rewards Gold, American Express Rewards, Green) in the previous 24 months
The reason for the order here is that if you got The Platinum Card first you would block yourself from the cards in list one (apart from British Airways Premium Plus).
This is the ONLY way to get three cards with sign-up bonuses quickly:
First card: Starwood Preferred Guest (30,000 Marriott Bonvoy points) or Nectar (20,000 Nectar points) or Platinum Cashback or Platinum Cashback Everyday
Second and third cards (order unimportant): The Platinum Card (30,000 Membership Rewards points) – because because the only restriction on getting this is if you have held another Membership Rewards-earning card (Preferred Rewards Gold, American Express Rewards, Green) in the previous 24 months and the British Airways Premium Plus card (25,000 Avios) – because the only restriction on getting this is if you have held either British Airways American Express card in the previous 24 months
The reason for the order here is that as soon as you get The Platinum Card or the British Airways Premium Plus card, you block yourself from all of the bonuses in the first list.
Different strategies apply if you qualify for Gold Business or Platinum Business as they can still be cancelled and reopened every six months.
Strategy Three is the most valuable option
Under the new rules, if you had not previously had a personal American Express card, you can get virtually back-to-back:
30,000 Marriott Bonvoy points from the Starwood American Express or 20,000 Nectar points
30,000 Membership Rewards points from The Platinum Card
25,000 Avios from the British Airways Premium Plus card
If you converted the 30,000 Marriott Bonvoy points into 10,000 Avios and the 30,000 Membership Rewards points into 30,000 Avios, you would have earned 65,000 Avios fairly quickly from sign-up bonuses.
Don’t forget your partner in all of this
Even if YOU no longer qualify for bonuses in the medium term, think about your partner. What has he/she had and what does he/she still qualify for?
You can double up on the bonuses above.
Even with the strict new rules, a couple (where neither has had a personal American Express card in the previous 24 months) could earn 130,000 Avios between them fairly quickly if each follows Strategy Three above.
Want to earn more points from credit cards? – March 2023 update
If you are looking to apply for a new credit card, here are our top recommendations based on the current sign-up bonuses.
In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards with a bonus of up to 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.
SPECIAL OFFER: Successfully apply for either of the Barclaycard Avios credit cards by 2nd April 2023 and you will be entered into a free draw to win ONE MILLION AVIOS! Full details are on the application forms here (free) and here (paid). This competition is exclusive to Head for Points readers. T&C apply.
You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:
Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard
25,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher for spending £10,000 Read our full review
Barclaycard Avios Mastercard
5,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher for spending £20,000 Read our full review
You can see our full directory of all UK cards which earn airline or hotel points here. Here are the best of the other deals currently available.
British Airways American Express Premium Plus
25,000 Avios and the famous annual 2-4-1 voucher Read our full review
American Express Preferred Rewards Gold
Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & four airport lounge passes Read our full review
The Platinum Card from American Express
30,000 points and unbeatable travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review
Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard
15,000 points bonus and 1.5 points for every £1 you spend Read our full review
Earning miles and points from small business cards
If you are a sole trader or run a small company, you may also want to check out these offers:
Until 30th March 2023, the sign up bonus on American Express Business Platinum is increased to 120,000 Membership Rewards points – click here. The bonus on American Express Business Gold is increased to 60,000 Membership Rewards points – click here. T&C apply, see the application forms for details.
American Express Business Platinum
Crazy 120,000 points bonus (to 30th March) and a £200 Amex Travel credit every year Read our full review
American Express Business Gold
60,000 points sign-up bonus (to 30th March) and free for a year Read our full review
British Airways Accelerating Business American Express
30,000 Avios sign-up bonus – plus annual bonuses of up to 30,000 Avios Read our full review
Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa
Get a 10,000 points bonus plus an extra 500 points for our readers Read our full review
For a non-American Express option, we also recommend the Barclaycard Select Cashback card for sole traders and small businesses. It is FREE and you receive 1% cashback on your spending.
Barclaycard Select Cashback credit card
1% cashback (3% for 3 months if you apply by 31st March) and no annual fee Read our full review